Lily’s story and a story my friend told me this week has reminded me so much of this expectation in our society. This expectation that women owe something to other people, especially men.
I feel the need to remind men, other women, and society as a whole…
We don’t owe you anything.
I, me, you, women, girls, don’t owe anyone anything.
We do not owe you
One more time in case you missed it. Women don’t owe you anything.
I don’t owe you sex for buying me a nice dinner.
I don’t owe you an apology for being my friend, even if you think you’ve been wrongly friend-zoned.
I don’t owe you an explanation for driving a bigger/faster/nicer car than you.
I don’t owe you an apology for making as much or more money than my husband.
I don’t owe you a “hello” or nod or anything when I see you on the street.
I don’t owe you nice clothes, dressing up, a skinny body or anything about my physique at all.
In an effort to explain one of the reasons I’m on this rant, I would like to explain that we don’t even owe it to you to even be nice. We may decide to be, because hey human beings should all be nice to each other.
However, sometimes being nice is dangerous for women.
Like Lily’s story. I heard another this week from a friend about similar experiences.
Earlier this week a friend of mine started at a new gym. It’s one of those cheaper gyms, with free tanning, female-only workout rooms and promises that there will be no gym-timidation. Yeah, sure.
She signed on all the paperwork and prepped for her first workout. As she handed the gym’s manager all the forms with the most incredible personal information on them, address, telephone, bank account, bio, etc. he struck up a conversation.
As a single mom, she had asked him about in-gym childcare. As a woman she asked about tanning booths. The male manager asked what she first saw as standard things, where and how often she worked. When would she usually be in? She casually mentioned how far away her job was.
Later that night she receives a text message from an unknown number.
Hey there. This is…Male Manager. What are you up to?
Why did he have her number? He could have only gotten it from her personal file.
Well-trained instincts fire. Don’t tell him you’re home alone.
(Tell him you’re headed out with friends.)
He proceeds to ask her out.
Then, we get to the real issue. Now, he has invaded her privacy. She knows he has access to her most personal information. He has access to her address. He knows where she works. He knows she has a young daughter.
She has to decide what to do. He has breached a line and now the decisions are up to her.
Do you pursue action with the gym? What if he gets angry? He has so many different tools to be able to retaliate. It’s like a Lifetime or Criminal Minds show waiting to happen.
Do you leave it alone? What if he does something extreme? What if he stops by while her older daughter is home alone?
Do you tell him off? What if he doesn’t take rejection well?
In the moments that it took for this man, a man in what should be a totally innocuous position of power, to invade her privacy he decided that she was pretty and she owed it to respond to him. Never mind how she would feel about his misuse of her information.
He took away her basic rights to feel safe.
He felt that she owed it to him to respond his advances because she talked to him, because of his job.
Women face crazy situations like this every. single. day. We are constantly on the defensive, because it is so often perceived that we are always indebted to someone for something.
If I reflex and smile at the wrong man in the bar, will he take it as flirting? If he thinks I’m flirting, what if he doesn’t take my “no” as an answer?
Furthermore, it has been my experience that men are vastly unaware of the defensive strategies that women take in this world just to stay alive.
Case and point.
My husband and I recently went on vacation with one of his friends. It was just the three of us in a huge, urban city. No kids, no jobs. Lots of food, and maybe some drinking. Why the three of us? Long story short an important football game was involved and we’re all pretty good friends.
Now, as a woman in a strange city, I expected to be nervous and on-guard. I’m not a stranger to big cities. However, this is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the country. I do admit, with two large men by my side, I was able to relax much more than I expected.
Fast forward to a crowded bar on a Friday night. We are sitting at this long, beautiful granite counter-top, in a hipster bar in the drinking district. We are elbow to elbow with total strangers, and after fifteen minutes we finally receive our first drinks.
Of course, after a 30 minute Uber ride and 15 minutes of waiting at the door, and then another 15 of waiting for a space at the bar, nature calls.
True to the lessons they taught girls at freshman orientation of college, I slide my husband my drink, place the coaster on top and ask him to “watch it.”
Flabbergasted, his friend — WHO IS A BARTENDER — says, “Why? We’re both right here.”
I looked at him in disbelief. As if their mere male presence would be enough protection against someone wanting to slip something in my drink. To be fair, maybe it might be. But maybe it won’t.
This is a thing. This is a fear that women in bars think of every time we go out.
Do I leave my drink with these people and trust them to watch it carefully? Or do I take it in the gross, over-crowded restroom?
As I watch my husband nonchalantly move my glass slightly more in to view, and then turn to talk to his friend I decide to take it with me.
Let me repeat this. Despite having my husband and his friend, both over the age of 25 to watch my drink, I still decide to take my drink with me.
They simply didn’t get it. How easily it could happen. They thought I was paranoid. Those kinds of things didn’t happen.
And for most, it is not a man’s reality. It is not their truth.
They don’t consider their safety and survival every time they go out.
I don’t owe it to anyone to smile, nod, or hug them. I don’t owe it to anyone to be nice. However, women are in a constant battle for their lives, sanity, and safety due to the fact that society feels we owe them something. We are not born or raised owing anyone anything.
Not a hug.
Not a number.
Not a smile.